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Fall River MA Daily Globe - 30 Jan 1908, page 1


In Collision of New Bedford Electric Car with 
Covered Wagon Near Greenwood Park

Apparently unmindful of the possible approach of an electric car, and not realizing the great danger lurking on either side of him, was no doubt the reason why Patrick Cummings, a farmer of South Westport, lost his life early last evening and why his wife Mrs. Catherine Cummings is now in the city hospital suffering severely from the pain of two fractured ribs and a fractured

The scene of the accident was at a point known as the Forge road crossing just west of Greenwood park and about four miles from the narrows. Cummings was killed outright, the wagon in which he and his wife were riding was demolished and the horse killed. The accident happened as near as can be determined about 6:40. 

The electric which struck the carriage was in charge of Motorman Matthew Durfee and Conductor John Nestor both of this city. It left city hall bound for New Bedford at 6:15 p.m. It left the Narrows about 15 minutes later and was five minutes late when the straight run along the state highway was struck. When the crew of the electric and passengers of the car realized what had happened they rushed to the assistance of the occupants of the splintered vehicle. Mr. Cummings was beyond mortal aid as a gaping hole in the right temple plainly told that death had practically resulted instantly. Mrs. Cummings was tenderly cared for and she and the body of her husband were put on the next inbound Fall River car which came along in a few minutes and taken to the Eastern station. 

Mrs. Cummings was subsequently taken from the station to the city hospital in the ambulance while the body of her husband lay in the guard room awaiting the arrival of Medical Examiner Gunning who later in the evening viewed the remains pronounced the cause of death due to a compound fracture of the skull and ordered the body turned over to D. D. Sullivan & Sons to be prepared for burial. 

News of the accident and the identity of the victim spread quickly, and before the body was removed from the Eastern station, the immediate relatives of deceased had viewed it and their grief was painful in the extreme. 

The first intimation that the police of the Eastern station had of the accident was when a telephone message was received about 7 o'clock with the intelligence that a man had been killed and a woman badly injured, that the body would be brought to the station on the first D. & W. car bound for Fall River, and that the ambulance would be needed to care for the woman. Lieutenant Devine accordingly telephoned for the ambulance, and it arrived in a few minutes. It was then that the identity of the victim was made known. The scene of the accident is one of the most dangerous points on the stretch from the Narrows past Greenwood park. There is a down grade there, and those big electrics are moving fast when they strike this stretch. Prior to the arrival of Medical Examiner Gunning, Lieut. Devine conducted an investigation but it was almost impossible to learn anything definite as to just how the accident happened. Motorman Durfee, the sole witness of the tragedy, had not been seen, and until he was heard from, no information could be learned. Mrs. Cummings was in such a dazed condition that she could not remember just what happened. 

With the arrival of Medical Examiner Gunning he instructed Lieut. Devine to ascertain if Durfee and Nestor would be back on the electric due to pass the Eastern station about 8 o'clock. On the car at the time of the accident and who returned to the Eastern station was Claim Agent Phelps of the D. & W. and the Union Street Railway company of New Bedford. He wired to New Bedford and found that Durfee was so completely unnerved as a result of the collision that it was deemed advisable to take him off the Fall River run, but Nestor came along. 

Lieut. Devine held the car up as it arrived at the Eastern station and Nestor was summoned. Claim Agent Phelps had in the meantime got a crew from the north car barn to relieve Durfee and Nestor. With the arrival of the conductor the first satisfactory information as to how the accident occurred was forthcoming. Nestor said that they left this city on time. Leaving the Narrows they were a few minutes late. He did not think that his car was making over eight or ten miles an hour at the time the wagon was struck. He said that it is customary for the motorman when making the Forge road to slow down considerably and he believed that this was done by Motorman Durfee last night. Asked as to whether he heard a whistle or gong, he said he was not positive as he was in the rear of the car and was boxed in. 

The first intimation he got that something was wrong was when he heard the crash and the car come to a stop, about four or five car lengths, he thought, from the point where the crash came. He said that Durfee was alone in the vestibule at the time and that he was the only man who really knew how the accident occurred. Nestor could not say whether the wagon was on the track or whether the outfit was on the crossing. He added that approaching the Forge road crossing there is a signal light and that all cars slow down as they reach that point. Nestor was allowed to go after he told his story. Claim Agent Phelps at the bidding of Medical Examiner Gunning had Durfee notified to appear here this morning. 

Meanwhile, an attempt was made to get Mrs. Cummings to say something as to the real cause of the accident. The Attendants at the hospital finally questioned her and, although very weak and barely able to speak, she said that they were in a covered wagon and were about to go over the crossing to the entrance of Forge road and after that she remembered nothing. This convinced Medical Examiner Gunning and the police that the accident happened directly on the crossing at the Forge road and that the outfit must have received a terrible blow. 

It was the opinion, after the body of Mr. Cummings had been examined that possibly it was the fall from the wagon, his head striking either on the frozen ground or against some blunt object, that caused the fracture of the skull and almost immediate death. The wound in the temple was a terrible one. There were no other signs of injuries about the head or body, with the exception of a few bruises, although it was later determined that the left wrist was broken. 

When the car crew and passengers went to the scene the body of Cummings was lying on the north side of the track. He died within a minute or two. Mrs. Cummings was on the south side of the track and in an unconscious condition. Some distance down the track the horse was found dead and the wagon at the roadside. No sooner had the car stopped and an investigation been made of what had happened than the headlight of a car bound for this city was seen. It was deemed best to place the body of Cummings on this car and this was done. Few if any of the passengers knew that the man was dead when he was put aboard, although it was plain to them that he was probably fatally injured. His wife was in an unconscious condition at that time, although when brought into the Eastern station evidenced signs of returning consciousness and finally did come to. She did not know, however, that her husband was dead, although she afterwards told the hospital attendants when the news of her husband's end was made known to her that she thought as much. 

Michael Cummings, the brother of Patrick, who resides on Flint street was among the first to arrive at the Eastern station and identified the body as that of his brother. He notified the several children of the deceased and some of them later in the evening called and viewed the remains of their father. They were almost heartbroken over the dreadful affair. Relatives of the dead man, also the police and physicians, the latter including Dr. Boylan who was summoned and viewed the body prior to the arrival of Medical Examiner Gunning, could not conceive at first how the accident happened. It was reported that Cummings was driving on the south bound track at the time that he was struck. This did not seem to be very clear to the police for they could not see how a man as careful as Mr. Cummings generally was would be driving along the car tracks when there was a clear road to be had. The statement of Mrs. Cummings dispelled this theory however. 

There is no doubt that both occupants were ignorant of any impending danger. From the circumstances and conditions of the collision Cummings must have driven directly upon the crossing without glancing one way or the other and with the car almost directly upon them no power on earth could stop the big electric from striking them. A down grade and slippery rails, with an electric going at the rate of 10 miles an hour, as Conductor Nestor believed, was dangerous to be in the way of, and the probability is that Motorman Durfee did not have a moment to act before the wagon had turned upon the crossing. 

The D. & W. cars whizz by Greenwood park on that even stretch at a very rapid rate. There have been times, it is said, when those cars have been making between 30 and 40 miles an hour. The fact that they were behind time gave rise to the belief that possibly the car was going at more than an ordinary rate of speed, but Conductor Nestor says not. 

This morning Medical Examiner Gunning went out to view the scene of the accident. 

Claim Agent Phelps, so the police said last night, when questioned, said that he was inside the car reading a paper and that the first he knew of anything wrong was when he heard the motorman yell. The crash followed. 

Patrick Cummings was very well known throughout this city. He removed to Westport in 1880 when he bought a farm there, and since that time he continued at that occupation. Previous to his removal to South Westport he lived below the hill and was a carpenter by trade. He was one of the best known farmers of the South Westport section. He was a fine specimen of manhood, about 60 years of age, and always regarded as a very industrious man. His wife, Catherine, is about 57 years old. Mr. Cummings leaves nine children, six daughters and three sons, the daughters being Mrs. Lucy Donovan, Mrs. Lizzie Bowers, Mrs. Mary E. Duffy and the Misses Annie, Jane A. and Aime; the sons being Michael, Owen and James. There are also two brothers, Michael of Flint street, and James, and three sisters - Mrs. John Dorriss, Mrs. Annie Phillips and Ellen Cummings. 

No autopsy was necessary, the cause of death being well determined. Today the body was removed to the home of his brother Michael on Flint street from which the funeral will take place Saturday. 

Inquiry at the City Hospital shows that Mrs. Cummings is getting along very nicely. The injuries are still very painful, but are mending satisfactorily. 

This morning shortly after 9 o'clock Motorman Durfee called as per request at Medical Examiner Gunning's office. To the medical examiner Durfee said: 

"When I left the Narrows I was about seven minutes behind time. I had a clear track ahead. As I neared the Forge road crossing I was probably going not over 10 miles an hour. I saw a covered wagon in the road way. To me it appeared that the horse was walking. The distance from where I was to that where the team was, was not very great. I continued along at the same speed for a stretch but as I neared the Forge crossing I slowed down considerably as is my custom. When within a very short distance of the crossing I sounded the gong and gave the accustomed blasts from the whistle. I was slowing down all the time. Just as I had almost reached the crossing the horse was turned towards the track. I did everything in my power to stop the car but could not. I struck the front wheel of the covered wagon knocking the horse to one side of the track and the team to the other. After I struck the wagon I should judge that the car traveled for four or five car lengths before it came to a standstill." 

Motorman Durfee feels greatly disturbed over the result of the unfortunate affair and was unable to resume his duties today. Medical Examiner Gunning went to the scene of the accident this morning.